A promise is something that elicits a strong emotional response. Your promise enables people to believe in you, only to have their hopes shattered when you fall short. During the sermon on the mount, Jesus reminds us that we should not make promises at all, for any reason. Simply because we have no idea if we will be able to keep them.
There’s actually a lot of power and freedom in this verse. A leader’s integrity is at stake, if they make a promise and fail to follow through. We are not God. We do not know the future. How silly is it to make a promise that we have no idea we’ll be able to keep? We’re setting ourselves up to lose credibility.
What a broken promise does to people.
People will not trust you, if you break a promise. If you don’t want to do something, it’s better to be honest. At least they’ll know where you stand and can’t hold it against you later, when you don’t do it.
People will change plans based on your “promise”. It may mean they won’t take a job offer because you “promised” them a promotion. What opportunities may they have missed out on?
People will stay in relationships with people who “promise” to change. How much time will they have wasted, if this person stays the same?
This verse immediately made me think of my wedding vows. I answered some questions about loving and cherishing all the days of my life, in sickness and health, for better or worse, with a “yes”. I then repeated some words back, in the presence of God and angels. So yes, I made a vow or promise, but that’s not wrong by itself.
Breaking the promise is a sin. Now just like all sins, God will forgive us, but that doesn’t mean we should cavalierly make promises and then repent when we don’t keep them.
It’s better to not make a promise. It’s probably also prudent to be a little leery of people who make promises to you in any context, but especially quick, spur of the moment promises.
“I’m going to be back in five minutes, I promise”.
“I swear to God, I’ll never do that again”.
“I will always be there for you”.
Breaking these promises erodes credibility in the worst way.
Yes or No
Saying “yes or no”, is all that’s needed. It builds respect and credibility, when you just tell people the truth.
Promises are unnecessary.